Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A Child's Perspective

My husband, Bev, spent some years as a Dairy Herdsman when our children were preschoolers. We lived on the farm where he worked so it was the next best thing to having a farm of our own. Lauren was still a baby but the boys often went to the barn with their Dad to watch him work and to see the animals. They learned to be careful not to ride their tricycles too close to the gutters and to stay out of the way whenever the cows were being moved. If they were lucky one of the barn cats would have kittens that they could catch and play with.

There was no bull on the farm. The cows were artificially inseminated when the time came for them to be bred. The vet would come at a later date and do a check to confirm the pregnancy. He would pull on a shoulder length glove and lift the cow’s tail to one side so that he could slip his hand (and most of his arm) into the cow’s rectum.  From there he could palpate the reproductive organs.   No one paid much attention to two goggle-eyed little boys watching from the sidelines.

I came into the kitchen on a day soon after one such visit to find Jason down on his hands and knees, mooing plaintively. Daniel had one arm encased in the plastic sleeve that the newspaper came in and he was poking his brother in the behind. I halted just inside the doorway and stared.

“What are you doing?” I demanded. I thought I could make a pretty accurate guess but I was curious about how they would explain it. I kept my face carefully neutral as Daniel straightened up and turned to me.

“I’m the pooper man,” he announced in a businesslike voice. “I’m checking for poop.”

“I see,” I nodded, my cheeks stiff with the effort not to laugh. “Well, carry on then.”

Obviously they’d drawn their own conclusions about the mysterious activity they had witnessed. I decided to let Bev handle the explanations. No wonder farm children learn about the birds and the bees at such a young age.

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